Guess what! Our spiritual gifts, which all of us have at least one of, are gifts from God and the Bible actually states that we are to be good stewards of said gifts. “As every man hath received THE GIFT, even so minister the same one to another, as good STEWARDS of the manifold grace of God” (1st Peter 4:10). Imagine that. I don’t even have to build a case for stewardship of gifts…the Bible does it for me plainly and simply.
These gifts are important as they serve to edify, instruct, teach, and unify the Body of Christ (2nd Corinthians 12:12-31). Having spiritual gifts is an awesome responsibility. I find it exciting that God has given us gifts to serve with and minister to others. Think about how awesome it is that God has given us something (the gift) to be used by Him in a specific way. Even if I have the same spiritual gift as my friend in the church, where and how God wants me to use it is unique to me and differs from what my friend is expected to do with theirs. God has personalized His will for each of us as it relates to spiritual gifts. Now that’s a personal God.
In 1st Corinthians 12:4 God’s Word teaches us that there is one Holy Spirit, but the gifts He grants us are divers. That portion of Scripture goes on to say in verses 5 and 6 that, of those gifts, God doles out differing responsibilities specific to each individual…all the while it is God who does the work through the believer. We are told that each of us was given at least one gift with which we are to serve the church in some capacity (1st Corinthians 12:7). It is evident from the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit does indeed give each believer at least one spiritual gift if not more (1st Corinthians 12:11).
These spiritual gifts are given to us that we may serve the Body of Christ and to help the Body of Christ function optimally. This is eloquently presented in the Bible by reading 1st Corinthians 12:12-31. This will all make more sense in a few moments when we briefly look at the gifts themselves, but for now, try to think on it this way…
A football team is a very good analogy. The entire team is the Body of Christ and the individual players are the members of the church. The team is broken up into three major categories: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The overall goal of the entire team is to win the game. Within each of those categories are even more specialized positions. The offense can have several specialty positions, such as guards, tackles, center, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, slot receiver, full back, half back, and tight end. Defense will have safeties, linebackers, pass rushers, and corner backs, among others. Special teams will have kickers, blockers, tacklers, and the like. There is ONE team with many members, each with at least ONE role to play…based on their ability (let’s call it a gift).
For a particular play, the center will hike the ball to the quarterback and then either hand the ball off to the running back or throw the ball to one of his receivers. This is all made possible by the offensive line that is blocking the other team from foiling the play and keeping the offense from reaching their goal of scoring a touchdown. When everyone does their job and the play works to the degree that it was designed to, everyone made a contribution. Some were more visible than others and had a highly prominent role in scoring the touchdown, but all the teammates were of equal importance.
Suppose the center didn’t show up on the field for that particular play. In order for the play to start, the quarterback would have not only had to do his job, but also that of the center. All of a sudden, because of the absence of one player, the quarterback now had two jobs to do…his…and one that was NOT his job to do. Now the center is also one of the players blocking the opposing team so the quarterback can make the handoff or throw the pass. But now, without the center, the quarterback cannot make the play AND block. Just by having ONE person out of play makes the rest of the players on the team pick up his slack…and it runs the risk of not even coming close to executing the play to reach the desired goal…of a touchdown and ultimately to win the game.
Sadly, this is how it is in the church. Everyone has at least one spiritual gift that is within you, in order that you may utilize your special ability in your designated position in the church, for the church to function optimally toward attaining its goal of reaching the community for Christ. Just like many football teams have multiple plays to score points and win the game, so too do churches have multiple outreach programs to reach others for Christ. The ultimate goal of the church is to fill God’s House in Heaven. But, sadly, people are missing from the team…or they’re present, but just not utilizing their gift within the church. Hence, others need to pick up the slack, leaving people to do two or three jobs, some of which they may not even be qualified to do. Worse yet, anyone doing two or more jobs to pick up the slack of someone else cannot do their own God-appointed job optimally. Again, if a quarterback is supposed to throw the ball, but has to try to block pass rushers at the same time because the center is not present, the quarterback won’t be as efficient as he could be.
In 1st Corinthians 12:18, God explains that He has set the members within the body as it pleased Him. Remember I said that on a football team there were some highly visible players and others whose job was just as important, but most of the time went unnoticed? Well this verse speaks to that. God, in His wisdom, has set us in the church to do what it is He needs us to do. Don’t be envious if you’re not in a highly sought after visible role. Don’t be envious of other people’s roles based on their gifts, as that would be ungrateful. Take your gift and position and run with it. Are you the teacher…or the teacher’s helper? Are you the pastor or a Sunday school teacher? Are you a musician up on the platform or are you a prayer warrior in your church? The “lesser” gift and position in the church is no less important.
On the same note, the Bible says in 1st Corinthians 12:21 that no part of the body can say to another part that it has no need of them. In other words, those who have prominent and visible roles in the church based on their particular gift(s) cannot say to any of the “lesser” gifted people in the church that their position is not necessary for the work of the church toward accomplishing its goal. A Sunday school teacher should not look down on the teacher’s assistant and say they are not necessary. Imagine a teacher trying to teach a lesson while children are misbehaving and need to be redirected to pay attention. Without a teacher’s assistant in the room, keeping order and preventing distractions, that teacher would have to constantly stop the lesson to take care of problems and resume teaching…over and over and over again every Sunday.
If we can all feel secure in our “lesser” roles and those in prominence can feel humble enough to be genuinely grateful for those in supportive roles, this will go a long way toward preventing schisms or divisions in the church and will actually lead to unity. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care on for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1st Corinthians 12:25-26). How can this actually come about? This can only come about through loving others biblically.
Remember that the essence of stewardship is done on the basis of love for others without concern for yourself first. In 1st Corinthians 12:31, Paul tells them he wants to show them a more excellent way. And, if you read the first three verses of 1st Corinthians 13, you’ll see the more excellent way that Paul talks of is the demonstration of love WITH the use of your gift(s). Paul basically states three times in those verses that no matter what he himself can do through the Power of God, unless it’s done in love, it all means nothing. In other words, Paul wants us to utilize our gifts in love for those we are ministering to, but also to utilize our gifts with our fellow church members with love for the brethren as fellow laborers.
And if we do utilize our spiritual gift(s) in the absence of love, as Paul warned, we will be nothing. Though God may still get His goal accomplished despite our heart being wrong, we will lose out on the joy and blessing that could be ours if we utilized our gift(s) in love the way God expects us too. And it is possible for God to accomplish His will despite our wrong attitudes, just look at how God used a reluctant and hard-hearted Jonah to save the entire city of Ninevah while Jonah sat on a hillside to get a good view of what he hoped would be the destruction of the city and people. Jonah had no love for the Ninevites, and he missed out on the joy of seeing the whole city spared from God’s wrath. If we utilize our gifts without exercising love, we’ll miss out on the joy that comes from serving God and seeing Him do a work through us.